April 13, 2018

Hurricanes too strong for the Gallagher Chiefs in Wellington

The Gallagher Chiefs have been unable to make it three straight New Zealand derby wins, going down to the Hurricanes 25-13 in a tough and physical contest at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

After a tight first 40 minutes, two quick Hurricanes tries to start the second half swung the game in their favour and launched them towards a three tries to one victory. The Chiefs second loss of the season sees them remain in third spot in the New Zealand conference standings, with the Hurricanes' sixth win moving them to the top.

The Hurricanes enjoyed the better of an entertaining start to the match, with a favourable penalty count seeing them go close to scoring on a couple of occasions.

They eventually cracked the Chiefs defence with second five Ngani Laumape offloading to a rampaging Ben Lam, and the big winger burst through several tackles with a combination of power and speed from 40 metres out to score a brilliant opening try.

From the restart, the Chiefs won a penalty and were able to get on the scoreboard from the boot of first five Damian McKenzie to settle them down after the fast start from the home side.

Fullback Jordie Barrett responded for the Hurricanes with his own three-pointer soon after, making it 10-3 after a frenetic opening 15 minutes.

The middle of the first half was dominated by a lot of stoppages, including a bad ankle injury to Chiefs prop Aidan Ross that delayed the game for around 10 minutes.

Both sides continued to be adventurous on attack but with the stop start nature of the match, neither was able to apply much pressure when in possession.

The Chiefs looked the stronger of the sides in the final 10 minutes of the half, and deservedly narrowed the gap to four points with McKenzie's second penalty right on the stroke of halftime, after he had missed a shot from in front a few minutes earlier.

It was a perfect start to the second half for the Hurricanes as they struck twice in the opening five minutes, with All Blacks first five Beauden Barrett playing a key role in both tries, to suddenly open up a 16-point lead.

A superb pick up from a loose Chiefs pass by Barrett saw him break clear, kick ahead and dot down for the first, and he then set up the second with a cross kick for Laumape.

The Hurricanes were now full of confidence and looked likely to add further points, but the Chiefs were able to weather the storm and slowly worked their way back downfield.

Desperately needing to be the next team to score, a patient build up ended in loose forward Lachlan Boshier finding himself in space on the left wing and he crossed the line for the Chiefs first try of the match.

McKenzie's sideline conversion brought the Chiefs to within nine points, getting them back into the contest as the match headed into the final quarter.

Shortly after the restart, a long-range break from outside backs Solomon Alaimalo and Charlie Ngatai swung the Chiefs back into the Hurricanes 22 once more. This time they were unable to convert but the signs were positive that they were beginning to threaten the Hurricanes defence more frequently.

However, errors began to creep in to the Chiefs play as they chased the game, still needing to score twice to get back in front, and the Hurricanes showed their class as their defence began to tighten up late in the match.

The Chiefs dominated a scrappy and frustrating final 10 minutes, but were just unable to apply the finishing touches, and the home side maintained their composure to close the game out with a Jordie Barrett penalty right on fulltime.

Gallagher Chiefs 13 (Lachlan Boshier try; Damian McKenzie con, 2 pens) Hurricanes 25 (Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, Ngani Laumape tries; Jordie Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens) HT: 6-10.

The Gallagher Chiefs now head over the Tasman for a clash with the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday 21 April, kick off 9.45pm NZ time.